First, you might be interested to check out Jimmy McGovern talking on Front Row (follow links) on BBC Radio 4 where he shares his views about script writing and the current state of British TV.
Now, The Jacket. Written by Massy Tadjedin, directed by John Maybury and starring Keira Knightley and Adrien Brody.
I was so frustrated with this script. It had great potential and initial intrigue, and then seemed to throw it all away in favour of some silly and implausible developments. I knew it was a film that was going to have a great deal of style and visual flair, so perhaps half the battle was won, but I was so annoyed by the script’s dodgy dramatisation that I pretty much avoided it once it was released.
The reviews more or less confirmed my opinion, and I still haven’t seen it. If you’ve checked it out, feel free to share your thoughts as opposed to the critique of the script, which follows below.
My logline: “A Gulf War hero suffers from post traumatic shock and when he is convicted of a murder of a policeman, he is sent to a psychiatric hospital where he undergoes severe treatment which somehow sends him forward in time so he can figure out whether or not he really did kill the policeman, and lay his personal issues to rest.”
My brief: “A searing psycho-drama along the lines of “Jacob’s Ladder” turns into a fairly risible time travel affair that is not adequately explained or paid off; this throws away its potential and intrigue with its erratic tone and naff developments.”
Comments (spoilers): “The first half of this premise is quite intriguing and dramatic - a Gulf War hero suffers from post traumatic shock and when he is convicted of a murder of a policeman, he is sent to a psychiatric hospital where he undergoes severe treatment. Unfortunately the latter part of the story – the severe treatment somehow sends him forward in time – turns the film into something else entirely and the story started to lose its tonal grip on the proceedings.
Moreover, the developments were far too naff and risible, and the impressive opening intrigue was ultimately wasted. Initially, the story gave off a strong impression that it was going to be a searing psycho-drama in the mould of “Jacob’s Ladder”, and the script’s style and structure effectively eked out interest and intrigue in the situation. The protagonist is haunted by fragmented images from his past in the Gulf War and when he is unsure about whether or not he killed a policeman, the story sits up with a generous amount of appeal and mystery.
He is sent to a psychiatric hospital where he undergoes severe treatment in an experimental device called ‘The Jacket’ but unfortunately it is here where the story takes an ill-advised change in its tone and drama.
‘The Jacket’ somehow sends the protagonist forward in time and he gets to walk around in present day 2004 while still having an emotional and physical toe in his other present day of 1992. This development did have some relevance to the plot and the story as William, the protagonist, meets up with a waitress whom he had met in 1992, and they investigate William’s apparent upcoming death.
Confusing? Well it is, and it isn’t. The narrative manages to stay on the right side of intriguing rather than confusing but regrettably the whole affair throws away its potential as it gets progressively muddled with the switches between 2004/1992. It was first thought that William’s initial experience in 2004 was just a hallucination but when the plot made it clear that ‘The Jacket’ was sending William forward in time, this was just too silly and insubstantial for the greater needs of the story.
More importantly, ‘The Jacket’s’ time travelling abilities are never adequately explained or paid off, and the latter half of the film became a risible mess, and partly lost sight of William’s goal to regain his sanity. The story focuses on William’s relationship with Jackie and his situation with the psychiatric hospital while the murder mystery involving the policeman is conveniently dealt with and the script becomes too silly.
There is a small but significant blemish in the script that tarnishes the material. One of the characters – Dr Lorenson – is introduced as a male character but then is inexplicably referred to as a female character. This was a glaring inconsistency of characterisation, presumably the character was male in the previous draft, but it only created further frustration and dissatisfaction.
The characterisation on the whole is alright, nothing spectacular. William Starks’s mental disorientation does manage to carry the film but his development wasn’t given a sufficient pay off with the film’s time travel tendencies. The importance of Dr Becker at the psychiatric hospital didn’t effectively combine with the romantic subplot between William and Jackie, and the male/female Dr Lorenson wasn’t used well enough to have an appropriate impact. Although the first part of this story has some appeal, the latter developments are less assured, and the film doesn’t leave a lasting impression.”